There are lots of misconceptions about flexible working that make businesses and employees tentative to move to this method of working. The term ‘flexible working’ brings to mind part time hours and people ‘working’ from the sofa, and many employers worry that they will lose productivity and dedication from staff if they decide to implement it.
However, this is not the case. Flexible working, also called ‘dynamic working’, is actually nothing more than a new way to approach full-time hours, and one which offers businesses the chance to build a high trust, high performance working environment, which better supports a healthy work-life balance.
Research has proven that happy employees are productive employees, whilst those suffering from an excess of stress are more likely to burn out.
UK law actually gives every employee in the UK the right to work flexibly, but a TUC poll recently revealed that one in three flexible working requests is still turned down by employers. However, as the coronavirus crisis continues in the UK, employees currently on furlough are beginning to be asked to go back into the workplace on a flexible basis, and this is something that businesses need to manage properly. You may even find that you want to continue it after the crisis has passed.
Why Choose Flexible Working?
The current job market favours the candidate, rather than the employer. The pool of skilled talent is limited, meaning that it is up to you to make yourself desirable to candidates, rather than the other way around. A flexible working structure is one of the things that can sell a business to candidates, as people value work-life balance far more now than ever before.
Not only can this approach win you more talented candidates, but it can also boost your reputation as a company that cares, helping to put you above your competitors in the eyes of consumers and other businesses.
How Can It Work For You?
If you’ve decided to make the leap to a dynamic working environment, there are lots of things that you can do to ease into the situation and ensure that both you and your employees are comfortable and able to adjust. Here are some ideas.
- Research flexible working practices to decide which you are going to make available. Flexible working is an umbrella term, covering things like part-time work, job shares and working from home. In fact it could include all of them. Do your research and decide how your business will run your workplace flexibly before you open it up to staff.
- Make it a priority to facilitate home access. This will allow your employees to log on and work from wherever they are and can boost productivity in your team. Research has shown that Millennials are more likely to check their emails before and after working hours, and during the commute to and from work they are likely to dedicate even more of their attention to it.
- Treat all staff the same. Make sure that your rules and behaviour towards staff is uniform across your entire team, so that everyone enjoys the same treatment whether they are working flexibly or not. You must also be consistent when approving applications. You cannot tell one staff member that they can work remotely and another that they can’t without a good reason that distinguishes the two roles.
- Have a trial period. As the global pandemic effectively mandates remote working for some businesses, this may be the perfect time to consider this a trial run for future flexible working. During this time you should monitor all of your employees carefully and make notes regarding their performance and how it differs from their previous work – if it does at all. This will help you to decide how effective flexible working is in your company before you make a commitment to roll it out on a larger or more permanent basis.
- Look at your flexibility champions. If you have people already working flexibly on a trial basis, or even as a special circumstance, pay attention to those who are doing it well. You can then use them as examples when you are selling the idea of flexible working to your team. You might pinpoint a team member who works mornings in the workplace but logs on again at home, or those who commit to weekend working from time to time at home.
- Agree weekly deliverables for every member of staff. This is a useful way to get your team producing work at the right rate anyway but is a good way to ensure that those working flexibly aren’t ‘getting away with’ anything. Let each employee know what they are expected to produce on a weekly basis and ensure that these ‘deadlines’ are met every week. If someone working flexibly starts to fall down then you can rethink their work structure, but this is also the case for those working on-site.
- Say no. One of the key things you should remember when setting up a new work structure is that you can always go back. Be prepared to say no to certain members of the team if their role does not facilitate flexible working. Just make sure that you are very clear in your reasoning and explain your decision sensitively.
- Think about job shares. One easy way to ease into flexible working is to hire two people for the same role, allowing both to work part-time hours and sharing responsibilities. This is a good way to hire those who have other responsibilities and cannot commit to full-time hours.
Implementing The New Approach
Once you have decided how and why you are going to implement flexible working, the next step is to actually do it. This can be done simply, in a series of steps.
- Write up a plan and risk assessment for the process, which you can refer to as you roll out the new working structure
- Identify members of the team who are likely to push back about the new approach and invite them to join in as early as possible, helping you to develop and roll out the new approach
- Set your objective and the potential benefits. This will help you to measure the success of the approach as it happens
- Allocate a budget and fund for any expenses (i.e. technology to help people work from home)
- Recruit your flexibility champions and ask them to vouch for the process to other team members
Depending on the sector your business operates in, making the transition to flexible working may be relatively simple or appear to be so complex as to be impossible. We believe the key factors to succeeding is to take it step by step and learn how other businesses have overcome the challenges. A great way of discovering theses success stories is to join business groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and connect with others in the same position as you.
TFMC have a large and diverse customer base and it is likely we have seen how some of our clients who operate in a similar sector to you have made the switch to a flexible working model. If you want to discuss what we have discovered or discuss best practice with us then please contact us on 0800 470 4820 or alternatively send us an email at [email protected].